Glass Animals Are Redefining The Concert Space

We chat with Glass Animals frontman, Dave Bayley, about the band’s upcoming show.

Last February, before things got shut down, before getting soaked by strangers’ sweat in a mosh bit was a yucky thing, I had the privilege of seeing Glass Animals perform at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg. From my reporter’s perch on the side balcony, I watched the crowd surge in time with the music, disco ball swaying to illuminate the face of an exuberant fan here or there. Dave Bayley, the frontman of the band, would at times launch himself into the crowd, dancing with them, jumping up on the sound booth. At the end of the show he hopped down off the stage and brought the audience in for a group hug, gathering what seemed like many more individuals than a single man’s arms could hold.

These days, such activities are strictly prohibited. Furthermore, the idea of being tightly compacted by the bodies of others inspires, at least in me, a deep, sickly fear. It’s unfortunate, especially for Glass Animals, whose latest album “Dreamland” dropped last August, as they initially planned to take their record on tour and through the festival circuit. Alas, that obviously did not happen.

“That was a crushing day,” said Bayley, when I talked to him this morning about the band’s plans going forward. “When we got sent back from that tour that you came to, and then realizing that this isn’t just a one month situation. The whole plan is gone and we saw the festivals canceling one by one by one by one by one.”

When I met Bayley, virtually, he was sitting in front of a number of lush plants, lit up by pink or purple lights. His room looked exactly like the set of the concert I attended. Bayley clearly walks the walk in his personal life. He also had a puppy sitting in his lap, staring up adorably at his bespectacled face. He (Bayley, not the dog) told me that the initial rollout for “Dreamland” was meant to based in live performances. After that plan was scrapped, they pivoted into a digital strategy.

This Thursday, the band is putting on a virtual concert, but this will be no ordinary Zoom call. It has elaborate set design, interactive features, guest stars, and a audience count of at least 15,000.

“What was kind of bugging me I guess, was that I hadn’t seen anybody do something that probably wouldn’t have worked in a normal venue,” explained Bayley. “It all seemed like a kind of normal stage show, but without the crowd and the crowd is the best bit. That’s like 99% of the fun, that feedback between you and the crowd. It’s quite hard to get that same energy in a performance without the crowd.”

From this truism the Glass Animals “Live In The Internet One-Off AudioVisual Experience” was born, with the goal to exploit the internet for all of its unique and unexplored performance possibilities.

“There’s a kind of augmented reality element,” said Bayley, working very hard to explain just what this event would look like without giving away the surprise. “You can use your computer and your phone at the same time to make the show basically come out of the computer, into your room by using your phone to augment it. I guess what we’ve tried to do is incorporate the good things from gaming websites and from social media, those that I think haven’t really been done in live music before.”

There will be three performing guest stars. Thus far, we know these include Denzel Curry and Arlo Parks. Two of the guests will perform on stage with the band, while the third will join in remotely. With its many moving parts, the whole show is going to be tricky to pull off, especially considering its experimental nature and huge audience, perhaps the largest Glass Animals has ever had.

“It’s kind of scary thinking that it’s our biggest headline show and it’s something we’ve never done before. Usually when you do a [headline] show, you’ve played like a hundred gigs before and you kind of know what works in terms of set lists,” explained Bayley. “You’ve played those sorts of venues before, and this is just like new venue, new songs, new set lists, no crowd. It’s completely, completely untried, untested, just dropping into the biggest show we’ve ever done. It’s gonna be weird.”

While working through his pre-show jitters, Bayley was still laughing and petting the squirming furball in his lap, so he can’t be too worried about things going wrong. And even if they do, the audience, deprived of live music content for months, is likely to be forgiving.

“Shit goes wrong when we play live, all the time. We have this philosophy where we never play with a backing track or a click track, and that means we mess up, a lot. Drew [MacFarlane], our keyboard player and guitarist, will just like, get distracted and stop. We have to stop and be like, ‘Let’s start again.’ That would be part of it. That will be part of this too. There will be mistakes,” said Bayley.

Live performance is as much a part of the Glass Animals experience as what’s pre-recorded in the studio. The band is routinely high energy. They rework tracks until they take on life outside their album format. For artists who were already bucking up against the constraints of the standard concert structure, the current predicament, though unfortunate in nearly every way possible, at least provides an opportunity for expansion. “Live In The Internet,” and the many other avenues artists are currently exploring, put music in uncomfortable and experimental new situations. If successful, the impact of these bold moves could be long-lasting.

“Theatrics is the wrong word, but a performance doesn’t have to just be like a rock show. There can be kind of artistic elements to it as well, and cinematic elements and non-musical elements to a show. I think a lot of our shows in the past have been really about just playing music, trying to make it sound amazing and look cool and nice lights.” Bayley pauses here as his puppy decides it needs to growl and reposition itself on his lap. “It was a very normal cycle: release the album, tour, go make another album, release it. It was just like such a cycle. Obviously [the pandemic], it’s awful, for many people, but in other ways I actually find it quite exciting and quite, I don’t know, the landscape is quite fresh. It’s a blank canvas and it’s fun being able to mess around and try and build something on that landscape.”

“Live In The Internet” tickets are currently available online, and the show takes place this Thursday, Oct. 15, at 8pm EST, directed by James Barnes and Produced by Globe Productions/Eagle Rock. Regardless of how crazy the show gets, perhaps the more so the better, it certainly won’t be one to miss.

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